Chicago school officials said Thursday that they plan to close dozens of schools in a bid to improve education and tackle a $1 billion deficit.
The move would shutter 61 school buildings, including 53 underused schools and one program. The cut represents roughly 10% of all elementary school facilities in Chicago Public Schools, the country’s third-largest school district.
CPS currently has 403,000 students, with seats for more than 511,000, and close to 140 of its 681 schools are more than half empty, according to the district. About 30,000 students will be affected by the plan, with about half that number moving into new schools.
According to WBEZ, 87 percent of schools that are being closed or having their buildings vacated are majority African-American. In total, 80 percent of kids affected by closures and other shakeups are black. About 42 percent of CPS students are African-American.
The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures, which it says would disproportionately affect African-American students. The union also warns the move would expose students to gang violence and turf wars, an apparent reference to neighborhood loyalties.
“This city cannot destroy that many schools at one time, and we contend that no school should be closed in the city of Chicago. These actions will not only put our students’ safety and academic careers at risk but also further destabilize our neighborhoods," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
I posted here recently about the role of concentrated poverty in Chicago’s murder rate. I wrote that sufficiency of police protection was not the key issue in the murder rate—that “violent crime in Englewood and West Garfield Park will continue to run rampant as long as poverty’s clustered there.”
The chart above illustrates the relationship between concentrated poverty and homicide. I culled figures from a data set published earlier this month by the Chicago Department of Public Health. The chart shows the five poorest, and five least-poor, community areas in the city (based on the percentage of households below the poverty line), and their homicide rates from 2004 through 2008. Because concentrated poverty in Chicago is inextricably linked to being African-American, I’ve also included the percentage of African-Americans in these community areas, calculated from 2005-2009 Census Bureau estimates.
If the homicide rates in the poor black areas were twice the rates in the better-off white areas, that would be significant. The differences above, averaging about 13 to one, are staggering. This is what apartheid looks like.
The only thing more reprehensible than homicide rates so grossly disparate, from poor black neighborhoods to middle-class white neighborhoods, is that we’ve tolerated them for decades. It was this way long before the 2004-2008 period the rates are based on—and the situation hasn’t changed since 2008. In today’s Crain’s Chicago Business, Arthur J. Lurigio, professor of criminal justice and psychology at Loyola University, points out that in 2010, 52 percent of murders in Chicago occurred in just six of the city’s 25 police districts—areas “plagued by intergenerational poverty, gang infestation, single-parent households, social disorder, and economic blight." These precursors to violence, Lurigio writes, "can be addressed most effectively through the social, political, and economic revitalization of distressed neighborhoods.”
"Revitalization" is part of the solution—but it’ll never work without concurrent efforts to deconcentrate the poverty. There must be a far harder push for mixed-income housing throughout the metropolitan area, and more support for those who want to live in it. This requires federal leadership that’s been lacking. It also requires the cooperation of mayors across the region—but only one mayor has the clout to lead the effort. He should remind his colleagues that the region won’t thrive unless its central city does.
That’s what should happen, but it probably won’t, because of another feature of segregation that makes it so tenacious. The people with the power to spur Mayor Emanuel to act have little reason to do so when the disease of poverty is quarantined. If you live in Edison Park, Garfield Park is not your problem. The homicide rate in Fuller Park may briefly dismay us, but then we move on to the next thing. We hate hearing about the murders, but it’s not us, our neighbors, our family members, or our friends who are getting the heartbreaking middle-of-the-night calls.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order Monday that essentially allows people in Illinois to record police officers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The justices declined to review a lower court ruling that found the state’s “anti-eavesdropping law” to be in violation of a person’s free speech rights when used against anyone who records police officers.
By refusing to review the case, the high court leaves the ban on the law in place.
The law set out a maximum prison term of 15 years.
In 2010 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit to block prosecution of ACLU staff for recording police officers performing their duties in public places.
Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, said the organization “continues to believe that in order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police.”
Photo Caption: A Chicago police officer threatens to arrest a man for recording him at a checkpoint (video)
“I don’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be. It doesn’t matter to me. My campaign doesn’t hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates.”
Republican White House hopeful Rick Santorum said on Monday he did not care about the U.S. unemployment rate, perhaps the nation’s most closely watched economic indicator, despite being embroiled in a campaign largely focused on the still-sputtering economy.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania known mainly for a strong religious conservatism, is battling Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the frontrunner in the race to oppose President Barack Obama in the November election.